New Zealand has announced on Aug 20 that it will ban shark finning to reinforce the country's reputation for sustainability and environmental protection. Conservation Minister Nick Smith has announced that the end of the controversial practice will keep New Zealand in line with other countries.
The shark finning ban was supposed to take effect in October 2015, according to reports. However, the government has moved it to October 2014 after conservation groups wanted an earlier implementation. In about two months, it will be illegal for fishermen to remove the fins of dead sharks and dump their bodies into the sea. Removing fins from live sharks was previously banned and criminalised in New Zealand.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, it is illegal to remove the fin of a shark and drop the live animal back to the sea. The proposed ban will make it a criminal offence to catch a shark and kill it before removing its fins for commercial use.
Shark fin is in demand in China since the shark fin soup is considered a delicacy. However, shark conservationists have long called for an end to the practice of shark finning since it is "wasteful and inhumane."
According to New Zealand authorities, about 20,000 tons of sharks are caught every year for commercial use with 121 tons of shark fins exported.
Pew Charitable Trusts welcomed the ban. It has estimated that at least 100 million sharks are taken from the sea annually. The practice has threatened the survival of some shark species. Imogen Zethoven, director of the organisation, praised the banning as an "important first step," although she believes it will not reduce the number of sharks caught in New Zealand waters.
Smith said sharks play an important role in the world's marine ecosystems. New Zealand's conservation minister told media that the country will be doing its part in managing 113 species of sharks found in its waters.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said the ban would "effectively eliminate finning" in the country without affecting New Zealand's fishing operations.
Conservation groups also welcomed the news of the ban to protect several shark species that were found to be dwindling in number, based on studies.